Attention job hunters: Do you think that trying to find your next gig is hopeless during the hustle and bustle of the holidays? Are you putting off your search until next year? Don’t do it. Now is the perfect time to make connections! Think about all the holiday parties and family gatherings you're going to. Fine tune your best selling points-- and get out there and network.
Brett Woodard, a Career Development Expert from Saint Joseph’s University says, “Use this time purposefully to plant seeds by deepening existing relationships and expanding your network with new contacts.”
How the heck do you do that without sounding pushy or trying not to "talk too much shop" at festive functions? Woodward says try looking for opportunities to strike up conversations and consider whether personal contacts (perhaps a family friend) can bring you as a guest to professional associations or company parties. “Seize the opportunity to introduce yourself and engage others by asking about their career,” he adds. “Share a little about your own career goals, and watch your network multiply before your eyes.”
Woodward did a little Q and A GalTime to get you on the right track:
GT: Right now a lot of students and older Americans are struggling to find jobs. Many people think, "It's the holiday season, I may as well put off searching until the beginning of the year." Is this true?
Brett Woodward: Job seekers may think the holidays are a good time to take a break from their search, but employers with hiring needs aren't likely to slow their recruiting efforts. With current unemployment rates, competition will remain high throughout the season, but savvy job hunters will keep at it while some of their rivals sleep in and hit the eggnog.
GT: Why are the holidays a good time to network?
Brett Woodward: The holidays are a perfect excuse to reach out with greeting cards or notes to reestablish connections with old friends and colleagues. The season is rich with social events where you'll find a broad range of professionals in a cheerful and generous mood. And it's an ideal time to invite executives out for coffee or lunch for 'information meetings' before the new year arrives with heavier demands on their availability.
GT: If someone is at a holiday party and they bump into someone who could be helpful how should they 'tactfully' bring up their job search and employment goals?
Related: How to Network for Inspiration
Brett Woodward: Lead the conversation with questions focused on the other person: "Do you have exciting plans for the holidays? What are you most looking forward to in the new year? What is your New Year's resolution?" This provides a perfect segue to share your own resolution regarding a career goal. Keep it brief and stay positive: succinctly share your goal in relation to your passion, strengths and interests. Avoid focusing on challenges you're facing which may leave others feeling burdened or pressured. Your goal should be to make them excited, rather than reluctant, to engage in follow-up conversations. Gracefully welcome hearing from them in the future if they become aware of an opportunity that might be a good fit.
Three tips for networking over the holidays
1. Network before you need work: 'Tis the season to deepen existing relationships and expand your network. Seek opportunities to attend as a guest at friends' company parties and other holiday functions to gain access to new social circles. Volunteering with a community organization is another great way to build relationships with people who value altruism and service to others.
2. Give thanks: Always send a brief 'thank you' note or email to express your appreciation or why you enjoyed meeting someone. Continue to nurture relationships by staying in touch in the new year and let others know how they've inspired, encouraged or otherwise helped you.
3. Give back: Remember that networking is not a one-way street. Reciprocation can be as simple as touching base with a contact to share an article or resource related to one of their own interests. This approach will engender generosity as you cultivate a network that understands your own goals and gets excited about supporting you.
Woodward warns, "Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an immediate job lead, one of the goals of networking it to lay the groundwork and establish a rapport." He explains, "Write a brief thank you note or email to express how much you enjoyed meeting the contact, and then continue to nurture these relationships by staying in touch in the new year.“
It can be as simple as taking the lead on referring one person to another, sharing an interesting article or forwarding a job opportunity. A reciprocal approach will engender generosity as you cultivate a network of professionals who understand your goals, recognize your commitment to your career search, and become excited and invested in supporting you.
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